By Elaine Ezekiel News Editor
Hundreds of Kalamazoo College students and city residents crammed into the Howard Chenery Auditorium’s reception area last Saturday awaiting Joel Salatin’s speech.
K students in attendance included members of Farms 2 K and Envorg, and the first-years in Amelia Katanski’s Cultivating Community seminar.
While they warmed their hands, attendees snacked on local foods and contributed to a decoupage art project envisioning an ideal food system.
Salatin, a third-generation farmer, author and sustainable food systems advocate, came to Kalamazoo on a tour promoting his latest book, “Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.” His celebrity in environmental and foodie circles gained traction when the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the documentary “Food Inc.” featured his Virginia-based “beyond organic” business, Polyface Farm.
Once the audience settled into the auditorium, the executive director of the Kalamazoo Nature Center Bill Rose and the People’s Food Co-Op’s general manager Chris Dilley introduced Salatin, who took the stage in casual business attire.
With the tone of a stand-up comedian and the content of a scientific historian, Salatin spoke for an hour, critiquing industrial agriculture and the way Americans relate to their food sources.
“We’re so full of our own technological superiority,” he said, “that the average person thinks we’re gonna be able to sail off into some Star Trek future and extricate ourselves from the nitty-gritty, dirty agrarianism of soil and splinters and callouses.”
The refrain “and that ain’t normal!” accented many of his points.
He advocated buying local food sourced from small farms whenever possible to keep a small carbon footprint and to keep money within local economies.
After his speech, Salatin opened the floor to questions. Maddie MacWilliams ‘16 asked Salatin how a college student living in a dorm room can achieve this mission without a kitchen. Salatin said it has been done, and that students can cut their food costs in half by shopping locally and cooking in bulk with a roommate.
Katanski said she left the event encouraged by the turnout of people interested in Salatin’s message.
“It was a really visual sense of the community in Kalamazoo working on food issues and how strong and how vibrant it is, and how much of a part of that that Kalamazoo College really is,” she said.